By Willard A. Jones
Those of us who are functioning as elders, deacons, Bible class teachers and song leaders must realize despite what our age might be, that we are rapidly passing from the scene of action and one day will need to be replaced. We should all be motivated to instill in those younger than ourselves the desire to serve the church as elders, deacons, Bible class teachers and song leaders. We must be willing to teach them and help them to be all they can be in the service of God. Let’s try to accomplish this without envy and strife and not be desirous of vain glory (Gal. 5:26). The apostle Paul said, in Philippians 2:34, “Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” We should not feel threatened by the ability of others, we should rejoice because of it.
The church is more important than any of us and our love for it should be paramount in our lives. We have to look ahead to the time when we cannot carry on our work or we have passed from this life. God’s way is men helping one another to render acceptable service to him. Satan’s way is one of envy and strife and lack of love for one another. One ugly act can destroy a lifetime of our own labor and the labor of others.
When it should come to a time of transition and the duties we perform are given to another, let us help to make it as smooth as possible and assist in any way we can that God’s church will continue to be the glorious church he intended it to be, when it is presented to him not having spot, or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:27). Let us not be one of those spots, wrinkles or blemishes; for if we are we will not be in heaven. The apostle Paul said it well in 1 Corinthians 9:27.
Serving as an elder in the Lord’s church is an awesome responsibility. The effects of what you do or do not do are very sobering when we think seriously about our service. The Lord has made us stewards over his heritage and one day we must give account of our stewardship. We must realize that what we are doing now will determine what the Lord’s church will be twenty years from now.
As one song we sing says, “There is much to do, there is work on every hand.” Our job or duty is to motivate others to work and to lead that work. When Jesus walked among men he saw the multitudes and was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted (were distressed) and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd. “Then saith he unto his disciples, the harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few” (Matt. 9:36-37). There were those who were to lead God’s people in that day who were failing to fulfill their responsibilities (Matt. 23:1-8). Some shepherds are failing today.
Shepherds are responsible for leading, feeding and even protecting God’s heritage from false teachers. Serving as an elder is to be the number one priority in our lives. If we do not have time to plan and carry out the work of the congregation because of the precedence of other interests, what we are doing or not doing is a disservice to the church and to the cause of Christ. We can become an impediment to the church and, as such, we should resign. A church without leadership and no plans for spiritual and numerical growth soon will find itself just “keeping house.” Where there is no vision, the people perish (cast off restraint, Prov. 29:18).
Fortunately for me I have always been able to draw on the strength and encouragement of the men with whom I have been privileged to serve. Without it, I might have become discouraged and resigned long ago. At present, I feel very strongly about the work we are trying to accomplish. It just seems that there is so much to do and there is so little time left to do it.
While I am still mentally and physically able to serve as an elder I hope to instill within others the desire one day to serve as an elder realizing the need is great. I agree with Dorval McClister who wrote in his tract, “Shepherd Staffs” (p. 3): “There is something seriously lacking in a local congregation which does not produce men who are qualified to serve as elders.” The proper program of work being done in the local congregation should in time produce Bible class teachers, song leaders, deacons, elders, and preachers of the gospel. From the time an eldership exists, those men should be aware that one day they will have to be replaced due to death or physical or mental handicap. The elder himself, realizing his physical limitations, should act accordingly.
An elder is expected to meet the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 and continue them in his fife. If he does not continue to possess these qualifications, he has disqualified himself from serving. He would no longer be an ensample (example) to the flock he is leading (1 Pet. 5:3). The shepherds of olden time went before the flock to lead them to good pasture and good water; they were concerned for the safety of the sheepfold. To maintain the confidence of the flock of God we must take heed unto ourselves (Acts 20:28). If we say and do not, we become modern day Pharisees (Matt. 23:3). One who no longer meets the qualifications can be asked to resign. This unenviable chore would be the task of the other elders. Hopefully the individual would resign voluntarily. We shepherds of God’s flock need to remember that we have a Chief Shepherd to whom we must give an accounting (1 Pet. 5:4).
An elder who has lost his wife by death is no longer the husband of one wife and no longer qualified. One elder cannot serve alone; there must be a plurality of elders in a congregation (Tit. 1:5).
An elder’s family can be a source of embarrassment both to him and to the church if they are walking disorderly. This being the case he should resign. The church following his leadership expects to see his teaching reflected in the lives of his family.
A loss of confidence in our leadership will hurt. In the Old Testament (Deut. 34:9) after the death of Moses, Joshua became Israel’s leader. The Scripture says he was “full of the Spirit of wisdom” and also that the children of Israel “hearkened unto him. ” May God give us such future leaders and we pray that the. church (God’s Israel today) will hearken unto them.
Their qualifications should suggest to the elders that here are the men you can count on to help with any problem or any work in which the church is to involve itself. The work of a deacon is not defined in the New Testament as explicitly as that of the elders. Without any assignment, many of them wonder what their role in the church is to be.
A deacon should cheerfully carry out the work given to him by the elders. Deacons generally are younger men than the elders, have younger families and perhaps are involved in more activities. If a deacon does not have the time to serve, he should resign.
My own personal concept of the deacon’s work would be similar to that of the seven men appointed to be over the daily ministrations to the widows in Acts 6:1-5. A deacon should continually from his visits among the saints of the congregation know the physical needs of those he visits. He should report his findings to the elders that the needs will be met. I believe that the lack of food, medicine, clothing and shelter can affect our spirituality, especially if we think nobody cares. I would suggest,that any deacon who is not making this a part of his work should do so. I know that the elders he works with will appreciate it.
Deacons need to maintain both the personal and the family qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. If these change the deacon should resign.
Bible Class Teachers
Bible class teachers have a great responsibility in the Lord’s church. They have the responsibility to lead others to Christ and the continued responsibility to teach them how to please God in their life (Matt. 28:18-20). The apostle Paul reprimanded the Jews for their lives were not in harmony with their teaching (Rom. 2:17-24). If we find that our lifestyle conflicts with what we teach and we are unable to harmonize the two, we should resign.
Teachers who do not have or will not take the time to prayerfully prepare for their assigned classes should either repent or resign. This all important task deserves our best efforts. Most of your students come to class expecting something from you. You should be prepared to impart something to them and not be found “just going through the motions.” Strive to make your class interesting. Make your class one the students will look forward to attending. Strive for perfection (Eph. 4:11-16; Heb. 6:1). Read the apostle Paul’s instruction to the young preacher Timothy (2 Tim. 2:2,24-26).
The growth of the individual and of the body is directly related to teaching. Consider the words of the Hebrew writer, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.” We can accomplish this through our teaching (Heb. 10:24).
False teachers must be stopped! “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Pet. 2:1).
The elders of the local church need to have a “Hands On” policy on the song leading to assure the training and development of more men who will be able to fill this important post. The idea of having one man who is to be “The Song Leader” impedes the training program. We neglect the desire of others to serve in this capacity when exercising the talent of one man exclusively.
There is no room for envy or jealousy here or in any other phase of the work of the church. Those who are more knowledgeable and experienced should want to help the younger, inexperienced brethren. We all need to look to the future for we are deciding what it will be right now.
There were temple singers in the Mosaic dispensation and those that led them were called chief musicians, leaders, overseers or chief singers (Neh. 12:42; Hab. 3:19; Neh. 12:46). Depending on the translation you are reading, “Chenaniah, chief of the Levites, was for song: he instructed about the song, because he was skillful” (1 Chron. 15:22).
We have need of someone to lead or direct our singing today so that we can do it in an orderly fashion. Paul’s instruction to the Corinthian church was to “let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40).
The singing of the local congregation sets the tone for everything that happens in public worship. This being true, a lot depends on the preparation of the song leader. A song leader that is just “going through the motions” is hindering rather than helping and the whole congregation suffers. It is painful to see a whole congregation suffer because of one member who should not be in a leading position. One who serves as a song leader should strive to be all that he can be so that he can lead the audience to do their very best. If leading singing becomes drudgery the service is being hindered, it is time to step aside. Those who start songs too high, too low or cannot beat time to keep up the tempo of a song should try to get help from those who know music and get experience at mid-week services. There is a need to train song leaders to use pitch pipes, beating time, etc.
When our voice fails and ill health comes, many times we cannot continue some of our activities including song leading. We should not be ashamed to step aside and encourage others to carry on the task of song leading.
“For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:10-12).
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 1, pp. 12-13, 18
January 5, 1989